Turning customers into brand advocates is the holy grail of marketing. There are countless seminars, and “how to” books and articles written on this very subject. Yet despite all these “how too” books, a formula or a specific series of steps to achieve this doesn’t and will not ever exist. Everyone is different. Each with their own unique drivers and emotions thus what inspires and drives them is going to be different for each individual. Pretty complicated, right?
The larger question in this this equation is whether or not brands are capable of inspiring their customers. Michael Brito, Edelman’s Senior Vice President of Social Business Planning, wrote about this very question in a post off his blog, Britopian. He believes that yes, brands can indeed inspire individuals. However, “it requires a fundamental shift in the way we [brands] think, and act, and plan, and go-to-market.” I agree. If an organization is going to successfully inspire and turn their customers into brand advocates they need to adjust the lens through which everything is viewed. To be successful you have to stop thinking of customers in terms of target audience, market segments, web site visitors, and acknowledge them for what they are – real people, with real emotions. Brito points out businesses “must learn to give without any expectation at all of receiving anything in return” an idea that Steve Knox, former CEO Proctor & Gamble’s word of mouth division, Tremor, refers to as “reciprocal altruism”. In short, this means laying off from promoting the corporate message from time to time and instead focusing on how the customer views the brand.
Now just to reiterate that while this idea of reciprocal altruism is important, I’m not advocating that marketers turn their back to the world of analytics. The two can, and must co-exist. “Certainly ROI and business value are important here and I’m not saying that we must be scared of the ‘hard sell’. The great thing about content marketing is that you can move customers up, down and through the purchase funnel by simply by providing content that matters,” writes Brito. It’s all about how the right content, at the right time, in the right channel can indeed help inspire you customers and turn them into advocates.
So, give reciprocal altruism a try and there’s no question that you’ll be surprised at your customers’ reaction. Brito puts it best by outlining this simple rule: “If you love your customers, they will love you back and tell others.”